General: Egypt: human rights defender Mohamed Zaree wins 2017 Martin Ennals Award


Egyptian human rights defender Mohamed Zaree, Egypt Country Director at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), has won the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2017.

The award, which aims to provide protection to human rights defenders through international recognition, was presented by the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, on 10 October 2017 during a ceremony at the University of Geneva.

The Award was accepted by Zaree's wife Shymaa Abd El Aziz and two young daughters on his behalf at the ceremony in Geneva as authorities in Egypt refused to allow Zaree to travel to personally receive the award. He has been under a travel ban since May 2016, like many other Egyptian human rights defenders. He was able to participate by Skype, saying, “This award belongs to many human rights defenders who face the most formidable threats they have faced since the emergence of the rights movement in Egypt.”

Mohamed Zaree is on trial in relation to case no. 173, the so-called “foreign funding” case, which the government revived this year for use against 12 civil society organisations and 17 human rights defenders. They are alleged to have accepted foreign funding without authorisation in order to "pursue acts harmful to national interests," in addition to founding organisations of an international nature without permits. The case originated in 2011. Since an amendment to Egypt’s penal code in 2014, these charges can carry a penalty of life imprisonment.

The case carries deep implications for all NGOs across the region where other governments are influenced by Egypt as they crack down on human rights defenders.

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The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) congratulates its close friend Mohamed Zaree and his organisation, long-time human rights partner CIHRS, on the award. GCHR calls on the Egyptian government to drop the charges against Mohamed Zaree and all other human rights defenders in Case no. 173, overturn the ruling to freeze their assets, lift the travel bans on Mohamed Zaree and all human rights defenders and allow them to freely carry out their work.